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Late-start Mondays a go

Staff Writer | June 8, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - Classes will begin later on the first day of the school week next year in Coeur d'Alene.

Trustees voted at their Monday board meeting to start school an hour later on Monday mornings beginning next fall. The change will allow teachers collaboration time within their contracted work hours.

Superintendent Hazel Bauman and all five trustees said they've each heard concerns about the change from teachers, parents and employers, but Bauman recommended they try the new schedule for one year.

"I think it boils down to whether we are going to take the plunge and support job embedded collaboration, knowing that it is going to cause some inconvenience, but working really hard to mitigate that inconvenience," Bauman said.

Sid Fredrickson was the only board member to vote against the measure.

"I have never had as many contacts over any one issue as I have on this particular issue," said Fredrickson, a trustee for more than eight years.

Fredrickson said he did not want to minimize the value of teacher collaboration, but he has heard from concerned teachers, parents and from employers who are already struggling to be flexible with employees who are dealing with increased demands due to the economy.

"I do not feel that from what I have heard from the constituents that have contacted me that I can support this as it is right now," Fredrickson said.

The four other trustees said they have heard from people with concerns about the new schedule as well, but supported moving forward because it will improve student learning and achievement.

"I think this is one of those times when we have a chance to not be timid, but actually to move forward and be positive and try it on and in a year see where we're at," said trustee Bill Hemenway.

For elementary school students, classes will start at 10 a.m. on Mondays and 9 a.m. the rest of the week.

Middle school classes will start at 9:10 a.m. on Mondays and 7:55 a.m. the rest of the week.

An extra 15 minutes of instructional time will be added to each school day, changing dismissal time for elementary students from 3:15 to 3:30 p.m. Middle and high school students will end their school day at 2:40 p.m. rather than 2:30 p.m.

The district's before- and after-school child care program, School Plus, will be expanded to meet the new schedule. Transportation schedules will be adjusted to the new times, and the district's nutrition services department will continue offering breakfast and lunch.

Before trustees voted, they heard from several concerned parents.

"I just get nervous whenever prime instruction time is cut into, especially when you're dealing with elementary kids who often get fatigued and lose interest toward the end of the day," said Lane Hughes. "I just want you to take a second look at giving up that prime instruction time."

Colleen Krajack, an HR director and a Sorensen Magnet School for the Arts and Humanities parent, said, "Mornings are tough ... It's much easier for our organization to be flexible in the afternoon when most of the meetings are not happening, then it is for us to be flexible in the morning time."

School board chair Edie Brooks said research shows increasing teacher collaboration time improves student achievement.

"That's mainly what we're here to do, and what our job is, to improve the student achievement of all our students across the board," Brooks said.

Trustees also approved continuing to offer "Schools of Choice" in the district, including the recently controversial International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at Lake City High School, and the IB's Primary Years Programme at Hayden Meadows Elementary School.

Before voting in favor of continuing to offer a variety of learning options and focuses at some of its public schools, Bauman said she is creating a task force to meet over the summer and address some of the questions recently raised by parents and citizens who oppose the presence of the IB programs in district schools.

The task force, Bauman said, will include mainly educators, but also two citizens, one representing each side of the IB debate. The task force will report its findings to the board in August, Bauman said.